US Diaries 2017
Note #2: A walk in @Princeton University Campus, The Bent Spoon, What do we cook and how do we cook?
On 23rd June, Dr. Rajiv Gandhi (the director of PACT Program), took us out to show the Computer Science Dept in Princeton. On the way, he was talking about a few food joints that we should explore while we were here at Princeton. As we were conversing, this interesting point about Princeton University came up. The University campus doesn’t have any boundary or wall. So it is difficult to say where exactly the campus ends or begins. This was something very unusual for most of us as we never had seen any university that doesn’t have any boundary wall. Princeton campus and its facilities is thus accessible to everyone. For the same reason, we also see tourists while we walk in the campus. Just imagine…someone could just walk into the University, use the facilities like playing some games, using the public library, going anywhere in the campus and nobody stopping them! Yes, this is unimaginable for some of us who were not even allowed to enter our own college after we passed out just because we didn’t have an id card (Note: This has nothing to do with me).
The core place in the campus is where the main academic buildings come. And then there are apartments that are owned by Princeton leased out to the faculties and management of Princeton. Almost all the apartments look similar. It something like a beige coloured one or two storied cottages or apartments sometimes. These houses had a sit out, a lawn outside it and a garage next to it. If there were kids in the house, their cycles could be seen outside. In the lawns we could see playful squirrels (as I had mentioned in one of the earlier posts). It was fun watching them play. They were bigger in size as compared to the ones we normally seen in the India. The crows also looked a bit different and even sounded different. Even the crows have an accent it seems.
We reached the Computer Science dept all excited. As it was like a dream come true for most of us to be at the CS dept of an Ivy League college. Dr. Gandhi showed us the classrooms that we would be using. The boys got pretty excited when they saw the blackboards that could be rolled up and down. We were there in the building for a while as we were waiting for Dr. Gandhi to complete some work and then we came down with him. He then took us to one of the best ice-cream shops in the country – The Bent Spoon. He told us that The Bent Spoon was rated as one among the top 10 ice-cream shops in US last year. He also told us that he would show us the difference between Chocolate and Sugar. Seldom do most of us check the contents of something before we eat, but Dr. Gandhi was very particular about it. And that is why he took us to ‘the bent spoon’.
At The Bent Spoon, there are lot of varieties of ice-creams and espresso. Ice-creams are either ice-creams (which will contain egg) or sorbet (which won’t contain egg). The best thing is that they allow you to taste as many flavours as you want before you would want to choose what you want to eat. So, there we were standing in a line and tasting flavours. I went ahead with Dark Chocolate Sorbet first. The second I put it to my mouth I knew that this was the one I want to have. It was like the ‘love at first sight’ feeling. So I told Dr. Gandhi that I will go for this one. He advised me to taste more flavours. Usually when I go to buy something, I settle for the first thing that I like and there are no second thoughts about it. This made me hesitant to go for another flavour and also the fact that there were people waiting in the line behind us which made me feel that we should give way for them. Dr. Gandhi smiled and said, “Vinay, this is US. Nobody would mind waiting. (No ‘jaldi karo kitna time laga rahe ho…humko bhi lena hai’)”. I tasted couple of more flavours in ice-cream which were equally good and it made me realise that love at first sight need not necessarily be the best one ;-). But I settled for two scoops of dark chocolate sorbet. The boys also tasted many other flavours and ordered what they liked. The best thing about The Bent Spoon is that, one scoop costs something like $4 dollars and a few cents. But four scoops will cost $6 and a few cents. The more the scoops that you take, the price increases at a diminishing rate. I wish I got get the data points from them and draw and graph.
We bought the ice-creams and came outside to sit on some benches in the open. As I took the first bite of the ice-cream…Oh my God, how do I express that feeling … I was in seventh heaven. I have never enjoyed ice-creams so much. The taste of pure chocolate when you taste for the first time is something like attaining Nirvana perhaps. I was reminded of instances in Vedantic texts where seers talk about the joy in Self-Realisation and when Masters attain it how they might feel about the lower level happiness which they have reveled in earlier and what real bliss means. This was my condition with respect to sugar and chocolate. All this while I love ice-creams/chocolates not realising that I was enjoying the sugar but not ‘real chocolate’. I was a fool all this while! Ojas told me that we can sit on the next bench as there was a shade of trees above it. But I didn’t feel like moving from that place before finishing my ice-cream. I could see the boys getting a similar feeling. We relished the ice-cream and left the place.